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Politics

Noem pushes for big-three salary increase

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Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary
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Governor Noem (right) addresses the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary during a Q&A with Scott Lawrence.

Governor Kristi Noem is continuing her push for 6 percent raises for state employees, teachers and community health providers.

However, the largest raise proposal in years does not keep up with recent cost-of-living increases.

Inflation increases for what legislators often call "The Big Three" are usually one of the last budgeted items during legislative session.

Lawmakers typically raise the funding for the big three based on two factors—either the cost of living or 3 percent, whichever is less.

Consumer prices rose by nearly 7 percent last month—the highest jump in inflation in nearly four decades. At that rate, salaries would lag behind for those in the big three.

During an appearance Monday in front of the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary, Gov. Noem said her proposed increase at 6 percent is unprecedented.

"We're not keeping pace with salaries in those areas in addressing some of our workforce needs and challenges that we have for delivering healthcare, taking care of people," Noem said. "Also, the workforce in our schools has been incredibly challenged in our ability to get teachers, but also school aids and support staff. Then, within state employees, we've got hundreds of open positions that we have to fill just to provide public safety."

Noem said state salaries for positions in the big three are not keeping pace with their counterparts in the private sector or other states.

Some Democrats say the 6 percent increase isn't enough.

Democratic state Sen. Reynold Nesiba said the cost-of-living adjustment for the big three should be 8 percent.

"We're trying to make up for prices that already went up," Nesiba said. "If you get a 6 percent raise and inflation is 7 percent, you went backwards by 1 percent in real terms."

Lawmakers will consider the governor's budget proposal starting in January, when they meet for an annual legislative session.

SDPB employees are state employees and would be affected by the proposed salary increase.